Bronx Children’s Museum (BxCM) has been championing learning through play, imagination, and exploration of nature and the arts around the Bronx since our dynamic programming launched more than a decade ago. Prior to COVID we offered 11 outreach STEAM, environmental, and arts education programs (detailed below) led by Bronx educators, artists, and environmentalists. Our iconic purple bus, complete with interactive dioramas of Bronx waterways, served as a roving classroom and was part of every environmental program offered. These programs were neighborhood-based, specifically developed to engage children in learning about the natural resources in their immediate communities. Arts programs in afterschool and in-school settings were also designed to explore the nature and natural resources of the Bronx, as well as promote healthy living and celebrate the borough’s rainbow of cultures and heritages.
Due to the impact of the pandemic, the Museum pivoted to remote offerings—live lessons via zoom, social media livestreams, video offerings, TV broadcasts and supply kits. Since programming began in 2010, the Museum has engaged more than 120,000 children and caregivers/families in collaboration with more than 575 different venues, 100 educational institutions and 200 community partners.
In 2022 we opened a gorgeous building space in the South Bronx brimming with interactive exhibits and experiences. In 2024 we will procure a new electric bus to enable us to continue our popular outreach programs ensuring access and equity for all. All programs will work to complement those in the building, and our new bus, reaching children wherever they may be.
The Museum is committed to providing affordable, accessible, interactive, inquiry-based early childhood programs and exhibits for children from pre-K to 3rd grade promoting environmental awareness and stewardship, science, greening and sustainability, literacy, arts, social studies, health, and history. Our overall aim is to be relevant, exciting, and inspiring while nurturing children to be themselves, find their voice, exercise agency, and become caring citizens of the planet.
Below is a description of the Museum’s 14 standard programs.
STEAM & Environmental Programs
Waters On the Go! Exploring the Bronx Waterways
Waters on the Go! (WOTG) has been a mobile interactive environmental science exhibit, installed in a retrofitted school bus, designed to help pre-K through 3rd grade teachers supplement their science and social studies lessons. Outfitted with dioramas and authentic sounds of the Bronx River and Orchard Beach habitats, WOTG educates children about the ecology and natural history of the Bronx waterways, and about the historical significance of the Native American Siwanoy who used to live there. BxCM guides visit participating schools before the bus arrives to orient teachers and to ensure maximum integration of the WOTG program into current lesson plans. Led by a team of these guides, small groups of children participate in each of three learning sessions about the flora and fauna of the Bronx. As one group tours the WOTG exhibit on the bus, the other groups see, touch and examine animal pelts and insect specimens in the accompanying WOTG suitcase exhibit. Participating classes are given activity plans, posters, maps, books and games as leave-behinds. BxCM educators also conduct pre- and post-visit assessments. For in-depth study, BxCM offers additional activities such as field trips to the river or beach. WOTG is also designed as a one-day experience (brought with and without the bus) for general audiences at parks, festivals, shelters, parades, etc. and is often accompanied by arts-related activities. Please note: Due to COVID-related health and social distancing concerns, our 34-year-old bus has been retired. A new, expanded, environmentally friendly bus will replace it in 2024.
The Nature of the Bronx
The Nature of the Bronx curricula is the Museum’s answer to hybrid learning in the schools necessitated by COVID. We quickly pivoted and drew on the core components of existing programs to design a unique menu of multi-week educational, natural science, arts and culture and literacy programs. Children explored Wonderful Water (preK), Weather Wonders (kindergarten) and Creature Features (1st-3rd grades). To ensure full participation, “Scientist in Training” supply boxes were distributed to every participating child. Nature of the Bronx reflects the rich culture of our borough. The offering also includes classroom libraries and professional development. BxCM plans to continue this initiative until in-school classroom visits return to in-person.
Spark Professional Development
BxCM offers CTLE (Continuing Teacher and Learning Education)-accredited, immersive professional development (PD) programming for approximately 40-50 classroom teachers and teaching assistants each year. PD workshops provide Bronx teachers, most of whom are our regular program participants, with beginning-of-the-year training and materials to improve their teaching practice using Museum-tested strategies and approaches such as the inquiry method, object-based learning and nature play.
BxCM will offer at least one large-scale virtual professional development training in Spring 2022 to up to 15 teachers, in partnership with Roberto Clemente State Park and P.S. 274. All work-shops provide teachers with CTLE-accreditation, which will allow participating teachers to use the BxCM trainings toward their required professional development hours as mandated by the Department of Education.
Little Friends of the High Bridge
Little Friends of the High Bridge (LFHB) was inspired by the restoration and reopening of the High Bridge, the city’s oldest standing bridge, which was built in 1848 as an aqueduct. Incorporating STEAM and history elements into the program, LFHB uses the Waters on the Go! bus exhibit and suitcase exhibits to educate children about the ecosystems of the Bronx and Harlem Rivers. It also makes use of a book written and published expressly for the program, The Lowdown on the High Bridge: The Story of How New York City Got Its Water, by Sonia Manzano (also known as “Maria” from Sesame Street). BxCM and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection have donated the book to more than 6,000 children in the Highbridge and Washington Heights neighborhoods in the last four years. The target audience for this program is pre-K through 3rd grade students living in the Highbridge neighborhood, and their caregivers and teachers.
Little Friends of Orchard Beach
Little Friends of Orchard Beach (LFOB) is designed to connect the people of Pelham Bay to the nearby park and waterways around Orchard Beach. It encourages teachers to use the story of the Native American Siwanoy who used to inhabit the Bronx as a tool to teach history and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). By exploring how the Siwanoy used natural resources to survive, children will develop a deeper understanding of the role that nature plays in all cultures, thereby becoming stewards and caretakers of their own local environment.
Little Friends of the River
Geared specifically for pre-school and kindergarten students, Little Friends of the River (LFR) is a partnership with Trout in the Classroom, a conservation-oriented, environmental education program for elementary through high school students, run with the support and cooperation of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. Students raise trout from eggs and ultimately release them into approved, cold-water streams and lakes. BxCM created an early-childhood professional development model of the program called Little Friends of the River, complete with lesson plans and other resources, designed for an entire school year’s activities. We also help participating schools purchase needed equipment, offer professional development, provide technical assistance and offer monthly classroom visits.
Little STEAMers engages 2- and 3-year-old children in early childhood centers with their caregivers in exploring the natural animals, plants and waterways of the Bronx through a series of consecutive classroom visits, where children and their caregivers are guided through a hands-on discovery of their neighborhood using sensory play, books, songs, movement, props and local walking field trips.
Green Arts Afterschool Program
The GreenArts Afterschool Program combines arts, literacy, environmental education and science in two afterschool programs for 2nd and 3rd graders at P.S. 55. This program helps children make the connection between health, nutrition, the environment, conservation and sustainability, and seeks to inspire each child, through the arts, to live a healthful lifestyle and to improve his/her community and the planet. At P.S. 55, thirty-five children from Morrisania conduct their own in-school health-awareness campaigns using the arts as their main vehicle, and write letters to local grocery stores and elected officials advocating for healthier foods in their community, which is considered a food desert. Children also participate in an end-of-year parade as part of the Bronx Day Parade to distribute healthy foods to the community.
All-In Book Project
Educators have the option to participate in the All-In Book Project, which features specially cu-rated book collections, with accompanying resource materials, related to the topics of Black Lives Matter and Social-Emotional Learning. For Fall 2021, two additional books will be added to each grade-specific book collection. The All-In Book Project will eventually focus on the inclusion of ALL types of visitors to the Museum’s permanent facility.
Arts & Culture Programs
Dream Big is an afterschool arts program at P.S. 5 in Port Morris and an intensive summer arts enrichment program each summer at camps in different South Bronx communities. The purpose of Dream Big is to inspire children to explore and elaborate on their grandest desires for their futures using the arts as a way to express themselves. Local teaching artists provide weekly instruction in the literary, performing or visual arts, designed to impart a sense of cultural pride, two to three days a week for up to thirty-six sessions. Each year, a different Bronx-related theme is chosen for children to explore through the arts. Dream Big Day is the culminating celebration of the summer arts enrichment component, where Bronx-born luminaries in the arts and public life interact with the children at a local college and encourage them to dream big and work hard. One of our regular visitors is Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor, who has attended all ten Dream Big Day summer celebrations.
ArtSpot is a summer weekend pop-up arts program originally designed for the children from the NYC Housing Authority’s Mitchel Houses in Mott Haven, in cooperation with the Mitchel Tenants Association. This year’s theme was aimed at highlighting our Art Builds Community artists in anticipation of the opening of our new building.
Little Friends of the Museum
Little Friends of the Museum, offered in collaboration with the NYS Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation and SCAN, allows 2nd and 3rd grade students from P.S. 274 to help design, create, and prototype pieces of artwork that are housed in the Museum's new permanent facility in Mill Pond Park. Throughout the school year, students receive twice-weekly workshops from Museum Teaching Artists during their afterschool program which takes place at Roberto Clemente State Park (RCSP). Students also have the opportunity to explore RCSP and visit several NYC museums and speak with local artists, designers, and curators to gain a deeper understanding of the artistic process involved in creating museum artwork.
Art Builds Community
In order to ensure that both local artists and Bronx children are integral to the design and creation of the BxCM facility, the Museum created the Arts Build Community (ABC) initiative. By infusing our building space with art and fostering artistic collaboration rooted in the borough, BxCM uniquely represents the Bronx and the population we most immediately serve. A key component ABC is the launch of Little Friends of the Museum, which partners Bronx children with a lead Museum teaching artist and ABC-selected artists in order to offer students both a behind-the- scenes understanding of the artistic process and the opportunity to co-create site- specific installations. The program includes studio visits and exposes children to the professional art world, and allows them to deepen their understanding of artistic expression. Importantly, they have been able to offer their child-expert input to the site-specific artwork, allowing the artists to benefit from a child’s perspective, and the children to develop voice and self-confidence.
Music Matters is a program for families featuring live musical performances from Bronx artists celebrating the rich cultural diversity of the Bronx, and the contemporary forms of music that have been created as a result. The first concert featured the local musical group ¡Retumba!, was bilingual, and included a Music Bag giveaway, full of musical instruments and a book, to 150 families at East Side Settlement House and Masa. In 2021, due to COVID safety concerns, the concert was pre-recorded at BronxNet television studios and broadcast both on the television network and on the Museum’s social media channels, and posted to the website on June 9, 2021.